This is a small collection of two short stories by the well-regarded Japanese novelist Banana Yoshimoto. The two stories were published together in 1999.
The first story, “Hardboiled”, is a ghost story (but not like the other ghost story I read this weekend), in which a young woman goes walking in the woods in order to process her grief over losing an ex-lover. The concept of being “hardboiled” refers to being tough on the inside in dealing with the pain of loss. Through her grief, the woman is visited by the presence of this ex-lover as she walks through the woods and comes to better understand and think about her feelings. This story takes place on an anniversary, something that has a lot of resonance for me in thinking of people who I lost and how their deaths are associated so clearly with a time of year or a specific date. In addition, just the sense of how much your mind and heart does not feel grounded in reality in processing such a jarring and ethereal feeling like grief.
The second story “Hard Luck” involves a young woman whose sisters lies dying of a brain hemorrhage in the hospital. And so she finds herself in a state of active loss and pre-grief. She becomes friends with the brother of her sister’s boyfriend and their friendship remains heartfelt and chaste. The story deals with the sense of loss as an active process, but also the ways in which life does not happen but also does happen in the same time period.
I liked these small stories and found them earnest and clear and precise in their thought and language.